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America's Best Bars 2012
  • July 03, 2012 : 18:07
  • comments

This is journalism, people. All year long our swarms of investigative reporters ping-pong across the nation, hitting juke joints, mixology meccas, beach bars and dives by the dozen. We look under every maraschino cherry, jotting down notes on wet napkins with steeled nerves and steady hands. To make our bar guide as definitive as possible, we spare lots of sleep and no expense. If you know of a drinking establishment that belongs on this list, clue us in. Meanwhile, pour yourself a tall one and enjoy this intoxicating menu.

Copa D’oro (Santa Monica)
A short walk from Santa Monica’s famed farmers’ market sits the most seasonally driven cocktail menu in the country. Go for the seasonal change, a bespoke cocktail created by barman Vincenzo Marinella from spirits, herbs, vegetables and fruits. (copadoro.com)

PDT (New York)
Superior cocktails aside, two things set PDT (above left) apart. One: The entrance is a vintage phone booth in the back of a Crif Dogs, the deep-fried-wiener eatery. And two: You can get waffle fries. PDT (“please don’t tell”) marries a speakeasy vibe and a menu of drunk food no man could resist. (212-614-0386)

Apothéke (New York)
Running hard with the 19th-century-German-pharmacy theme, Apothéke doesn’t mix drinks so much as fill “prescriptions.” The menu is divided into stimulants, painkillers and aphrodisiacs. Insane-sounding ingredients abound. Roasted corn, anyone? (apothekenyc.com)

The Violet Hour (Chicago)
No cell phones, no reservations, no baseball hats and no cosmopolitans. What you will get at this bar (below right): imaginative world-class creations as carefully thought out as a good novel. Our favorite: a coffee & cigarettes, made with Sailor Jerry rum and tobacco bitters. (theviolethour.com)

TearDrop cocktail Lounge (Portland, Oregon)
House-made bitters and tinctures accompany bottles behind this bar. Owner Daniel Shoemaker is a spirits savant. All his bartenders go through rigorous training, and the results are spectacular. Try a huevo batida on a hot summer day. Coooool. (teardroplounge.com)

The Alembic (San Francisco)
Smack in the middle of strung-out Haight-Ashbury (did we say smack?) sits this sophisticated cocktail bar (below left). The menu is divided into the canon of classics (jack rose, blood and sand) and new-school creations (try a love in vain). (alembicbar.com)

Drink (Boston)
In a city of hard drinkers, this cleverly named establishment resembles a sushi bar. No cocktail menu here. The bartender susses out your mood and delivers something unexpected but on point every time. Definitely try a Drink signature cocktail. (drinkfortpoint.com)

Cure (New Orleans)
A cab ride Uptown transports you to this elegant wonderland with a menu that will widen your eyes if not your liver. The gin-based “expense account” cocktail is delicious, especially if you have a corporate card. (curenola.com)

The Aviary (Chicago)
The cocktail counterpart to Grant Achatz’s Alinea (three Michelin stars!), the Aviary is a deconstructionist’s dream. Flavors arrive via vapors and fogs. Ingredients come frozen or flaming in more than 30 kinds of glassware. Like nothing else on Earth. (theaviary.com)

The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co. (Philadelphia)
Named for the company that served as the front for what was once the largest illicit booze ring in the country, this establishment (above right) is an homage to the pre-Prohibition era: the style, architecture, music, even the lightbulbs—and, yes, the drinks. (thefranklinbar.com)

Photo Credits:
Prizefighter: Credit: Prizefighter/Facebook; Draught House: Credit: Josh Wilson/Draught House Pub/Flickr; Apotheke: Credit: Thomas Schauer; Green Mill: Credit: courtesy Marc Pokempner/Green Mill; Ernestine: Credit: acrusingcouple.com; Lee Harvey's: Credit: Tyler Sharp; Lewer's Lounge: Credit: courtesy Lewer's Lounge; Franklin Mortgage and Investment: Credit: courtesy The Franklin Mortgage and Investment Co.; The Violet Hour: Credit: courtesy Violet Hour;

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read more: nightlife, magazine, alcohol, bars, issue july 2012

9 comments

  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The best dive bar is the tip top tavern in breadenton floida
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The Very Best Dive Bar On The Treasure Coast Is " Ralphs Standup Bar " in Jupiter Florida :-)
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Only Nashville mention is the tourist trap Tootsie's?!? No Patterson House? No Springwater? No Boundary? No 12 South Taproom? No Virago? C'mon.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    yeah tip top tavern is a magical place
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    Weak sauce...gimme something I didn't hear about 4 years ago
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    im so happy for Cruise Room denver......spent many a new years there
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous
    The best classic bar of N. Carolina is The Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar in Carolina Beach, free music and cold beer sitting on a hurricaine shortened pier over the atlantic ocean.
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